Avoyelles Police Jury considering court cost increase to pay for courthouse upkeep

 

There is a difference between routine maintenance and renovations. One of those differences is that courthouse maintenance is included in the Avoyelles Police Jury budget. Renovations are not. However, in most years projects that should be considered “renovations” end up being done and taking a good chunk of the maintenance budget.
 
“We end up having to move money around in the budget,” Police Jury President Charles Jones said.
 
Courthouse officials and police jurors have decided to work together to come up with a solution that enables floors to be cleaned, routine repairs to be made and the needed renovations to be made, hopefully without the annual “budget shuffle.”
 
For example, the Police Jury has about $40,000 budgeted for courthouse maintenance this year. So far, the jury has received renovation/remodeling requests that would take about half of that amount.
 
“Remodeling requests put us in a budget crunch,” Jones said. “We will have to look at those requests very closely.”
 
He said the Police Jury has mandated obligations to provide for the upkeep of the courthouse, which includes janitorial services, utilities, water/sewer, plumbing services when needed, carpet cleaning, grounds services, etc.
 
It does not include more extensive projects such as replacing carpet, large-scale repainting or replastering of walls.
 
The “answer du jour” is to increase court costs on criminal court actions and possibly increase court costs on civil suits. 
 
In a special meeting March 25, discussion of maintenance and renovations led to a major remodeling project that has been on the parish wish list for some time -- renovating the fourth floor so it can be used to hold inmates awaiting court appearance.
 
Jurors said citizens who have to come to court see inmates sitting in the hallways or standing around outside.  Although they are secured and guarded at all times, there is a desire to keep the inmates separated from the public as much as possible.
 
The 4th Floor Project will cost approximately  $200,000 -- and possibly more. It is also considered a “security improvement measure” for the courthouse.
 
No specific “courthouse fee” was determined at that meeting. Suggestions ranged from $10 to fund minor renovations and routine maintenance on a year-to-year basis to following East Baton Rouge’s example and adding $100 for the courthouse fund onto the court costs.
 
A larger fee would enable the Police Jury to sell bonds to finance major projects, such as the 4th Floor.
 
12th Judicial District Court Judge Billy Bennett said he and District Attorney Charles Riddle will review information concerning a possible criminal court cost fee for the courthouse. Riddle said an increase in civil court costs would have to be approved by the Legislature.
 
The Police Jury passed a resolution to request State Rep. Robert Johnson and State Sen. Eric LaFleur to introduce local bills in the Legislature to authorize the court cost increase.

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